Eventing highlights: Coney leads Britain to Nations Cup third *H&H Plus*

  • The French prove unstoppable on home soil, but two young Brits shine in Normandy

    Le Pin Au Haras, Normandy

    Richard Coney led the British team to third in the opening leg of this year’s Nations Cup series.

    Riding his 2019 young rider team gold medal-winning partner, Kananaskis, the 21-year-old put in a solid performance in all three phases to finish eighth and best of the 14 British horses who crossed the Channel and lined up for the first post-pandemic international.

    “It was great to be out again at an event of this calibre and satisfying to pull off a good result,” said Richard, whose star has been very much in the ascent in the past two years and especially since making a successful senior team debut in the Nations Cup leg at Houghton last May. “Bar the odd blip Kananaskis is a really consistent horse who is suited to the big occasions. We came here two years ago to do the CCI4*-S and I would say the cross-country track was stronger this time.”

    Richard also jumped a foot-perfect cross-country clear on the less experienced Mermus R Diamonds to finish 25th individually. He is planning to make his five-star debut at Pau with both horses.

    The French team led from the start, with Thibaut Vallette and his five-star campaigner Qing Du Briot IFCE and Thomas Carlile with the up-and-coming mare Birmane sharing the top spot after the showjumping and going on to finish first and second.

    These two were ably backed up by Christopher Six (Totem De Brecey) who leapt from 28th place after dressage into fourth, just behind French individual Gwendolen Fer (Traumprinz).

    In fact, it was an out-and-out whitewash for the home side when Karim Florent Laghouag and Triton Fontaine completed the top five.

    The Dutch team, led by Tim Lips and Eclips (23rd), nudged ahead of Britain after cross-country when both Zara Tindall (Class Affair) and Tom McEwen (Figaro Van Het Broekxhof) faltered at fence 15b – a skinny left-handed brush corner in the middle of a curving three-part combination.

    It was left to David Doel, who was drafted into the squad at the eleventh hour when Laura Collett (Dacapo) withdrew over fears of quarantine restrictions, to ensure Britain stayed in the hunt. He acquitted himself brilliantly on Gillian Jonas’ inexperienced Galileo Nieuwmoed, finishing 14th after a double jumping clear. David was also 15th with Mr Hiho.

    Chef d’equipe Philip Surl commented: “Although it was slightly frustrating to lose second place given how well we’d started [in the dressage and showjumping], the over-riding feeling was a very positive one. Richard stepped up to the plate. Things didn’t go his way last autumn in the Nations Cup at Waregem [the pair fell across country after a good dressage score] but he put that behind him.

    “It was exciting to see David’s young horse go so well; he has had some very solid form and looks to be a great prospect.”

    Warwick Hall (X), Cumbria

    Christopher Whittle had double cause for celebration at Warwick Hall (X) when he topped two BE100 sections on two talented but very different horses. He took section B on Kilwaughter Storm, a six-year-old full brother to his four-star ride Kilwaughter Blade.

    Both are British bred by the AES sire Osmium out of Kilwaughter Beauty and are owned by Joanne Pullan.

    “They are very easy to work with and enjoy their job, but Kilwaughter Storm is probably a bit lighter on his feet than his older brother,” said Christopher, whose second win came aboard Andrew Dixon’s American thoroughbred Bitusa.

    The 10-year-old gelding raced on the Flat until he was five and joined Christopher’s team a year later. “He has not always been the most confident, but the time I spent with him during lockdown, without the pressure of competing, has done him a lot of good,” said Christopher, who has 11 horses to compete, ranging from four-year-olds to two four-star rides, from his yard near York.

    “I’m still far from 100%”

    This time last year, Warwick Hall (X) BE80(T) winner Amy Dixon feared she may never event again. In March 2019 she underwent major back surgery to treat a disc that had prolapsed by two centimetres.

    “It took a long time to get going again and to jump a fence. Having to undergo major back surgery at the age of 35 was not something I had bargained for, but I was determined to get back eventing even though my balance and confidence were badly affected,” said Amy. “I’m still far from 100%, but my Warwick Hall run was the best I’d felt since before the surgery.”

    This was a third win at the level for Amy and her winning partner, Goodluck II (Ronnie). “Ronnie was bought to do dressage, so I’d like to get him out over the winter and do some advanced mediums,” she said.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 27 August 2020